Proof Your Dream Bag Is Being Handmade in Portland Right Now
We can’t think of a fashion staple that’s more essential than the classic handbag. Carrying everything from your wallet, phone and iPad to your beauty essentials and keys, a great purse handles it all while effortlessly complementing your style. No one knows this better than L.A. Caldwell of Minnie + George, a maker of hand-crafted handbags and other leather goods for men and women. Located in Portland, Oregon, all of Minnie + George’s products are made to order from locally-sourced materials. Read on to learn about L.A. Caldwell’s inspiration, what advice she has for other makers and what’s next for this budding brand.
What inspired you to start Minnie + George?
There were so many things that inspired me to start Minnie + George, it’s difficult to pinpoint one thing. I’ve always been a creative and adventurous spirit. I spent hours and hours drawing as a child. In my early thirties, I quit my job, sold all my stuff and gave up my apartment to spend six years traveling and teaching all over the globe. When I returned to the States, I got an incredibly non-creative job that helped me to rebuild a stable life here, but that was emotionally stifling. Minnie + George started out as a daydream to get me through some long work days. At some point, I decided that it was a daydream that I needed to make a reality.
How did you come up with the name?
Minnie + George is named after my parents, Minnie and George Caldwell. I named the business after them because they have always wholeheartedly supported both my creativity and my dreams. I would never have been able to do this had they not instilled in me the belief that I could. In truth, it was only fitting that something I love doing so much be named after the two people whose love made it possible in the first place.
How would you describe your company’s style?
I’m definitely most drawn to minimalistic, classic style — Minnie + George definitely reflects that. I don’t add a lot of embellishments or follow any particular trend. I aim to connect to the beauty of timeless simplicity.
What is your favorite product in the shop and why?
Oh wow, that’s like asking me to pick my favorite child. My most popular bag right now is definitely my Drawstring Bucket Bag and I totally understand why. It’s super functional, as it can be worn as a backpack, crossbody or shoulder bag. It’s also darn cute. I’d have to respond, however, that my personal favorite at the moment is my Carry All Tote. I’ve made some small aesthetic tweaks to it that have me drooling over it. It’s also so true to its name… it really can carry it all! I love that I can pack it full in the morning and have everything I need all day. I’ve been carrying one every day for a week now and I don’t see myself switching out my bag any time soon.
Do you have a favorite holiday tradition?
I just really love Thanksgiving. When I lived in Argentina, I made a Thanksgiving dinner for over 30 people from half a dozen countries. Before the meal began, we formed a large circle and every person shared what they were thankful for. I was in an ugly cry by the end. It was nothing short of amazing. I felt so honored to share my favorite holiday with so many different cultures.
What’s one item on your holiday wish list?
Well, since spending Christmas with my family this year is unfortunately off the wish list, I have to admit I’d love a new sewing machine. I’ve been pining for a nice industrial one for a while now. It would really speed up my productivity and also allow me to try out some new designs that I’ve sketched out but can’t complete on a conventional sewer.
In one sentence, describe why you love to make.
I love to make because it inspires and challenges me to learn and grow every day.
What’s one piece of advice you’d share with other makers?
My advice is when that when perfectionist tendencies start to take over and lead to those inevitable feelings of inadequacy, step away from what you’re making and find the real source of that anxiety. I’m pretty sure it’s not really that quilting square you’re working on. It’s probably that 10-year-old you, who’s still disappointed that little Susie (or whoever) beat you at the science fair (or whatever). Take a moment, tell your 10-year-old self that you love her, that her active Volcano rocked that fair and that it’s okay not to come in first or be perfect. Then, go back to that quilting square and enjoy letting it be whatever it’s going to be. The mistakes are what make it look cool anyway.
Tell us how technology has changed and supported what you do.
Well, for one thing, though I don’t have an industrial sewing machine, I use a pretty high-tech conventional one and it’s pretty amazing what it can do. I use a Bernina 560 and it’s just a really smart machine. In terms of social media, there is no way that Minnie + George would have the kind of exposure and opportunities it’s received without the reach of Instagram, Twitter and Facebook. The business went live June 10, 2014 and in less than 6 months, I’ve been invited to shows, been featured on blogs and am in stores. It’s been an incredible experience.
What’s up next for Minnie + George?
Well, I’m hoping to expand into apparel and home goods. My cute pup, Miles, has inspired some ideas for dog accessories. My dream is to really create a full lifestyle brand. I would definitely encourage everyone to follow Minnie + George on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram to watch it all unfold.
Ready to handpick your handmade Minnie + George? Head over to the Brit + Co Shop!